Friday, June 19, 2015

Bulgarian Declares Mass of Floating Pumice off New Zealand “Principality of New Atlantis”


It’s being reported this week that a 59-year-old businessman from Bulgaria has declared what he hopes will be the world’s newest independent country: the Principality of New Atlantis (Нова Атлантида).  The businessman, Vladimir Yordanov Balanov, has chosen as New Atlantis’s location a giant mass of floating volcanic pumice in the South Pacific measuring about 26,800 square kilometers—a bit smaller than Haiti or Belgium.  (See the nation’s website here.)


This rocky mass, generated by an underwater volcanic eruption, was first reported in 2012 by New Zealand’s navy, but it is not in that country’s territorial waters.  It is at approximately 168ºW and 38ºS, due east of the country’s large North Island and due south of the self-governing overseas New Zealand territory of Niue.  It even lies significantly outside New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone.

The approximate location of “New Atlantis” in relation to New Zealand’s marine boundaries.
Balanov originally tried to convince his native Republic of Bulgaria to annex it—there are even indications he travelled there to plant a flag—but he got no expressions of interest either from Sofia or from the European Union (E.U.), of which Bulgaria is a member.  (Bulgaria has never had any overseas territories.  The E.U. does not have overseas territories itself other than overseas territories of specific member states.  Some overseas territories of E.U. member states, such as French Guiana and the Canary Islands, are part of the E.U., while others, like Greenland, the Falkland IslandsCuraçao, and French Polynesia, lie outside the union while still being tethered to their mother countries.  Nor has any Eastern European country had overseas colonies, except for one: the Duchy of Courland and Semigallia, a part of modern Latvia which enjoyed quasi-independence from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries and briefly established colonies on Tobago in the Caribbean—now half of independent Trinidad and Tobago—and on St. Andrews Island off the coast of what is now the Republic of the Gambia.  (St. Andrews has been renamed Kunta Kinteh Island, named for a fictional ancestor of African-Americans in Alex Haley’s 1976 novel Roots, later played on television by LeVar Burton.))

The flag of Liberland
Other citizens of New Atlantis include, in addition to Balanov himself (who, the published constitution implies, will be New Atlantis’s founding hereditary prince), Balanov’s wife Galina, as well as Hristo Radkov, vice-president of the Bulgarian chapter of Mensa, the international organization for high-I.Q. individuals.  Balanov said that he was partly inspired by the establishment in April (reported at the time in this blog) of the tiny libertarian micronation of Liberland, on the border between Serbia and Croatia—a project headed by a Czech but largely, it seems, funded and staffed via Switzerland.

In this map of disputed and unclaimed areas along the Serbian-Croatian border, the green area (“Siga”) is “Liberland,” while “Pocket 1” is the proclaimed territory of the Kingdom of Enclava (see below).
Liberland is situated in a 3-square-mile area consituting one of several no-man’s-lands along the disputed border.  The Liberland project had already inspired one other micronation: a group of tourists from Poland later that month declaredKingdom of Enclava along the border between Croatia and Slovenia.  But the Slovenian foreign ministry quickly pointed out that “Enclava” was not terra nullius but was actually undisputed Slovenian territory, even though admittedly the two states have not finalized the demarcation of their border.  Enclava’s founder, Kamil Wrona, calling himself King Enclav I, then relocated his 134-citizen project to one of the true no-man’s-lands on the Danube River near Liberland (see map above).  But Croatian and Serbian police have consistently done everything they can to shut down Liberland’s publicity stunts and flag-raisings.

The U.K.’s Sun tabloid has covered the Enclava story, since Britain, which has a large Polish population, is home to some who are connected the project.
The Bulgarian founders of “New Atlantis” may yet prove to be making the same mistake that Liberlanders, Enclavans, and many other micronationalists have made—assuming that because a scrap of land is technically unclaimed, no state will interfere with the founding of an independent entity there.  A libertarian Lithuanian-American real estate mogul named Michael Oliver made this mistake in the early 1970s, when he barged tons of sand from Australia to the Minerva Reefs, a set of low seamounts between Fiji and Tonga which did not poke above water for enough of the tidal cycle to be classified under international law as “territory.”  But as soon as the reef was built up enough to pass legal muster, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, Tonga’s king, claimed it, and sent a naval vessel to eject Oliver and his nascent Republic of Minerva.  (Today, the reefs have eroded away once again to nothingness, but rival claims are still being made by Tonga, Fiji, and one “Prince Calvin,” an American who says he is the “island’s” monarch.)  Oliver’s similar “seasteading” project in Palmyra Atoll, a United States territory near Hawai‘i, got even less far.

Spidermonkey Island, a floating island off the coast of Brazil invented by Hugh Lofting for the Doctor Dolittle novels, would not qualify as “territory” under international law because, like the New Atlantis pumice patch, it is not anchored to the ocean floor.  Here, some whales under Dolittle’s command help move Spidermonkey Island to a more convenient spot.
The “New Atlantis” mass of pumice stays above water throughout the tidal cycle, but it is not legally “land” either, since it is floating, not anchored.  Whether New Zealand, its nearest neighbor, will tolerate any state-building there remains to be seen.  Certainly, with no source of freshwater and no supply ports anywhere near by, it would be difficult to colonize.  Perhaps Balanov was also inspired by the recent Image Comics series titled Great Pacific, which envisions a do-it-yourself nation called New Texas founded atop an (actual existing, sadly) floating mass of plastic in the northern Pacific Ocean.  The comics series, however, remains silent on many of the insuperable logistical barriers to such a project.


Balanov and compatriots may also want to consider a new name for their principality.  The term New Atlantis may well derive from the use of the name Atlantis in Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel-format libertarian manifesto Atlas Shrugged, in which it, along with Galt’s Gulch, was a label for the hidden mountain refuge in Colorado where the world’s leading industrialists relocated themselves after dropping out of society so that they could live in peace and prosperity while the greedy, lazy “second-handers” bent on the redistribution of wealth suffered the utter implosion of the rest of the world’s now rudderless economy.  (Just to clarify: in Rand’s novel, these industrialists were supposed to be the good guys.)

Vladimir Balanov posing with the Bulgarian and New Atlantean flags
Also, this isn’t even the first use of the name New Atlantis.  In 1964, Ernest Hemingway’s brother Leicester Hemingway founded his Republic of New Atlantis on a bamboo raft lashed to an old Ford engine block floating off the coast of Jamaica.  And in 1624, Sir Francis Bacon published a description of a fictional utopian “New Atlantis” on an island called Bensalem off the coast of Peru.

The flag of Leicester Hemingway’s Republic of New Atlantis (1964)
But the oddest thing about the name is that New Atlantis is not in the Atlantic but in the Pacific.  Why don’t they call it New Lemuria?

The original, original New Atlantis, as envisioned by Sir Francis Bacon
Thanks to Peppino Galiardi of the Kingdom of Cavaleria for alerting me to some sources and information for this article.

[You can read more about the Republic of New Atlantis and many other separatist and new-nation movements, both famous and obscure, in my new book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas just published by Litwin Books under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar.  The book, which contains 46 maps and 554 flags (or, more accurately, 554 flag images), is available for order now on Amazon.  Meanwhile, please “like” the book (even if you haven’t read it yet) on Facebook and see this special announcement for more information on the book.]


1 comment:

  1. Obviously the moon, Mars or an asteroid is a wonderful place for a new nation, provided I don't have to live there myself.
    Traditionally, the underclass needed to do the work in such a place is provided by convicts, debtors or just plain slaves. Naturally the EU, the US, and many others would love to send all their illegal immigrants to Mars, so Elon Musk should have no difficulty in finding (involuntary) candidates for his Martian settlers. This'd also provide a wonderful disincentive for the asylum seekers if they knew they'd be dumped on Mars rather than living on welfare in Paris. Inconvenient accumulations of criminals in the prisons could also be dumped there, and no doubt people who consistently failed to get a job would also be transported, to reduce the burden on the taxpayers. The future will be fun.

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